By Suzy Williams
“I am not a pessimist,” narrates the banjo-playing, under-30-something filmmaker Josh Fox. He’d been offered $100,000 to lease part of his property in Mylanville, in the deep woods of Pennsylvania. A stream runs near the red cabin that his hippie parents and their friends built in the late ‘60s. Josh spent idyllic childhood days playing beside that wooded stream, its mysterious bends beckoning to other woodland adventures.
He decides to investigate this offer from an oil and gas company, and visits Dimock, PA, the nearest town where such deals were accepted. He finds a community suffering from serious water contamination. The people are getting sick; their pets are going bald, the tap water is flammable. One resident hands Josh a jar of nasty chartreuse-brown liquid – supposedly regular drinking water – to take somewhere to be analyzed.
Soon Josh was sucked into the drama and tragic reality of HYDRAULIC FRACTURING. Dick Cheney had somehow rolled back the great steps taken by the Clean Water Act, enacted in the early 70s, and managed to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from reporting anything about this insidious practice, which has been going on since 2005.
What is HYDRAULIC FRACTURING? “Fracking,” as it has been nicknamed, blasts a mix of water and chemicals 8,000 to 11,000 feet into the earth, causing a mini-earthquake, releasing the “natural” gas. Then the combination of toxified water and gas is separated above ground. 576 chemicals are used in this process. The gas is sold; the poisoned water is able to seep back into the soil and water system. Each “fracturing” takes one to seven million gallons of water; each well can take up to 18 blasts. In the U.S., there are now 450,000 wells. Multiplied by 18 – that’s a lot of tainted water.
Josh Fox set out west and found communities in Wyoming, New Mexico and other states that were coping with the same problem. Many had signed an agreement not to complain once they’d been paid off, but had found that the reverse osmosis filtering system they insisted upon had membranes that were eaten by glycol ethers, one of the poisons used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Frustrated at having to buy their water at Walmart, they decided to break their vow of silence. Especially since they had massive headaches, cancer, and had lost their sense of smell, and could only taste salt and sweet. All subtleties of taste were gone. A peach had only texture, no flavor
People’s lives are being ruined. But the wildly scary thing is that this threatens our lovely and vital water systems. What happened in the Gulf of Mexico with BP is terrifying enough- this puts the reality that the Louisiana fisherman are facing right in our kitchen faucet.
This is an important film for all people to see. It is beautifully made, with lots of footage of fresh sweet rivers, sometimes with gracious trees dripping from a recent rain. Josh plays his banjo, once with that strange two-pronged mask on, protecting his breathing near one of these awful fracking derricks, once with his friend out in the midnight sticks near his home. My sister Jennie once told me that one day, water will be the new gold. Rare and pricey, only the rich will have it plentifully.
This Hydraulic Fracturing has to stop immediately.
I’d like to get copies of this film to anyone who wants to watch or show it. Please call me, Suzy, at 310-306-7330. Better yet, order it from Josh’s website: gaslandthemovie.com.